ASTRA Central and Eastern European Women’s Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health

Jul 30 2014

The anti-choice movement, which is on a constant rise  in Poland, is currently acting against sexuality education in Poland. The Committee for Legislative Initiative ‘Stop Pedophilia’ aims to, according to its leaders, ‘protect children from depravation of so-called sex educators’. 

The Committee convinces that Poland is threatened by gender ideology and depraving sexuality education provided with the use of WHO document ‘Standards of sexuality education in Europe’, which was published in Polish last year. The organizers of the campaign claim that the standards give only technical information on sex and contain instructions on teaching children how to masturbate, hence the Polish government shouldn’t support the model of sexuality education proposed in the WHO document. What’s more, the campaign attacks non-profit organizations providing sexuality education by accusing educators of sexualizing children and promoting pedophilia. The Committee also spreads homophobic messages relating to sexuality education, claiming that sex educators ‘promote homosexuality’ and tend to encourage children to try different kinds of sexuality orientations and relationships. Homosexuality is also treated on the same grounds as pedophilia – in some Polish cities there are banners of the campaign with information that LGBT people rape their children. 

The legislative proposal prepared as part of  ‘Stop Pedophilia’ campaign would extend the article 200 of Polish Criminal Code (regarding the age of consent) with the two paragraphs: persons publicly promoting or approving activities of pedophilic nature would be punished with amercement, restriction of liberty or imprisonment. The same punishment would apply to persons who publicly popularize sexual activity of adolescents below the age of consent or enable them means to do so. According to leaders of the initiative, sexuality education proposed by WHO and provided by non-profit organizations is actually encouraging children to have sex. Polish NGOs working for comprehensive sexuality education are mentioned in the justification of  the initiative as the threat to children’s development. 

The project collected 250 thousand signatures and it was proposed to Polish parliament as citizens legislative initiative. It’s predicted that the first reading of the project will take place in September. The campaign has been criticized in media by academics and activists as homophobic and distorting the real role of sexuality education.

Source: Gazeta Wyborcza daily (Polish only)

Jul 29 2014

In June 2014 Polish weekly "Wprost" revealed a shocking case of a woman, 22 weeks pregnant whose fetus was diagnosed with multiple, severe and irreversible malformations, was denied a legal abortion by professor Bogdan Chazan, director of the public Holy Family Hospital (Szpital Świętej Rodziny) in Warsaw. Moreover, prenatal testing and procedures were extended so as to prevent the woman from seeking an abortion elsewhere and she was not referred to another doctor despite the fact that the Polish law on conscientious objection demands that. 

The child which was born as a result of Chazan's decision died after 10 days. Prenatal diagnosis was fully confirmed and there was no chance of its survival. 

On 3 July the Minister of Health informed that the National Health Fund (NFZ) imposed a penalty of 70 000 PLN ( ca. 23 000 USD) on the hospital due to the violation of patient's rights and failure to act according to current provisions. Later that month Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz finally dismissed doctor Chazan from the position of director of the HolyFamilyHospital in Warsaw. 

Doctor Chazan appealed with the labour court against his dismissal. Meanwhile 42%  of Polish gynaecologists support the removal of conscientious objection clauses from the law. Polish bishops have also openly expressed their support for his actions. 

In the aftermath of the Chazan scandal one district (poviat) in Mazovia Voivodship changed its provisions concerning a local hospital stating its work is fully based on the principle of protection of human life. Head of Mazovia Voivodship Jacek Kozłowski decided this newly amended provision ought to be nullified as it could lead to abuses in medical practice (interpreting the clause to protect fetal life over the life of women). Polish Ombudsperson Irena Lipowicz has recommended the Ministry of Health to amend provisions on conscientious objections so that its application by doctors would not stand in the way of women's rights. 

The woman who was the victim of doctor Chazan's decision demands 1 000 000 PLN compensation for personal damages caused by his abuse of conscientious objection.

Source: Federation for Women and Family Planning

Jul 28 2014

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) published the national responses to the BEIJING + 20 UN questionnaire. UNECE is one of five regional commissions of the United Nations. It brings together 56 countries located in the European Union, non-EU Western and Eastern Europe, South-East Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and North America.

To view all the national responses click HERE.

The regional Beijing+20 conference will take place in Geneva on 6-7 November with an NGO Forum held prior to this event.

Jul 22 2014

Press statement 

“A pregnant situation” 

Research about compulsory abortion counselling in Hungary 

PATENT Association, July 2014 

In spring 2014, PATENT Association Hungary conducted a study about the practice of compulsory counselling, set by law as the precondition of obtaining abortion in Hungary. There are two counselling sessions in Hungary, of which the first has to be “in the interest of keeping the fetus”, including information on the “dangers of abortion” and its effects on later pregnancies. Following a minimum three-day waiting period, the second session is supposed to be only informative and administrative. Our study’s aim was to examine how the women attending the sessions were treated: were their personal freedom to decide over their bodies, were their autonomy and human dignity respected, what attitude they experienced on part of the counsellor, in what tone were they addressed, and what kind of information they received. We were looking to answer the question of whether women’s rights are violated during the compulsory sessions, whether it occurs that their dignity and feelings are violated or disregarded, and if so, in what forms, through what acts did this occur.

Jul 22 2014

The Women’s Major Group (WMG), representing 500 women’s human rights, environment and development organizations, among them ASTRA Network, that have engaged substantively in the negotiations of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) throughout its one and a half year process, released a statement on July 21st, marking the end of the OWG’s final session and proposal for a set of goals, raising critical red flags on the content and level of ambition encased in the proposed SDGs. 

The final SDG text encompasses a broad spectrum of the three pillars of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental, and against much opposition, includes a goal on “peaceful and inclusive societies”. There is a fair amount of progressive, development-oriented language, as well as some demonstration of political will to prioritize a more holistic framework for development through sustainability. 

While appreciating and acknowledging efforts of the co-chairs and many countries to promote women’s rights, engage civil society across the process and to push for more ambitious language, the WMG concludes the goals fall short of women’s aspirations for a strong set of transformative goals needed to achieve gender equality, women’s human rights, sustainable development in harmony with nature, and an end to inequalities.


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